Business failing to gain full advantage of Twitter

08:32, March 10, 2010      

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Micro-blogging site Twitter has now sent out more than 10 billion tweets in less than four years. However new research has found that most businesses aren't taking full advantage of the site's potential.

The 10 billion "tweet-feat" was recorded by Twitter-watching site Gigatweet. At the same time, a study found that most FTSE 100 companies had registered, but didn't actively use their Twitter accounts.

The study by Virgin Media Business found that just 16 of the top 100 companies in the UK used Twitter regularly, although more than half had signed up to an account to prevent cyber-squatting. With one in five tweets containing references to products or brands the study concluded that most businesses were missing out on a prime chance to engage with customers.

"We have seen Twitter use skyrocket recently, and some five billion tweets have been posted since October alone," said Phil Stewart, director of customer service at Virgin Media Business. "With so many people sharing their thoughts online, it's no surprise that many are talking about companies. Clearly this presents an excellent opportunity to engage with customers, but many are missing out."

Stewart warned that the three quarters of organisations not posting anything on Twitter are wasting the opportunity to connect with customers in a way that suits them best. "Creating a Twitter account and leaving it dormant, or not responding to tweets by your customers, is no better than opening a contact centre and not picking up the phone. In fact it is worse as this lack of interaction can be viewed by millions," he said.

"Companies should respond to customer enquiries and take part in conversations about their brand or industry transparently. It might take a few minutes each day, but could be time well spent if it helps to strengthen relationships with customers, build links with prospects and take part in the dialogue that is shaping attitudes and responses towards your business."

Some companies are using Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel, much like an extension to their corporate blogs. They will post about corporate accomplishments and distribute links that take people back to corporate web pages, press releases, and other promotional sites.

Some companies aren't so much Twitter participants as they are Twitter "listeners." Using search tools like or desktop applications like TweetDeck, they keep track of what's being said about the company, its product names, or even the industry as a whole.

Many hotel chains and airline companies use Twitter to publicize deals, and restaurants and coffeeshops also use the social networking site to connect with customers.

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